I remember the episode in Tottenham, north London some thirty years ago, when in serious community unrest the Police were called to the scene, and P.C. Colin Blakelock was butchered. If memory serves me correctly, the weapon was a machete. The whole episode came as a dreadful shock to most people, including many such as myself who was born and raised in the neighbouring Borough of Wood Green, and spent many happy days in Lordship Lane Park which was close to the riot scene. We had no idea that there was anything like such serious social tension. .A man was arrested, tried and sentenced. Community / Police relations were poor for a long time afterwards. It is said that a great deal of work has since been done to repair those relationships and that the situation of late was “much improved.”
However, a couple of weeks ago there was an incident, I think on Ferry Road, Tottenham Hale, in which firearms were discharged. There was an armed police response, and following the shooting a police marksman shot and fatally wounded a young man inside a taxi-cab. He was suspected of having initially discharged a gun, and there was talk of a handgun or a REPLICA handgun seen inside the Taxi.. Opinion or belief of local residents was that the man killed had not been the man who opened fire. His death led to protests, and the next afternoon a protest march to the local Police Station took place. This had been peaceful. Nonetheless, at some stage the mood suddenly changed, and a large number of other persons came into the area, seemingly ‘tooled up’ and otherwise prepared to riot. They set fire to police vehicles, bus and private cars and shops, stores and residential properties. In the chaos, quite unexpected as it had been, there was no significant police presence. Matters quickly got out of hand, and large-scale arson, burglary and looting continued for some hours. The frenzy soon spread to other parts of London and to several other cities. In the process there were deaths and several injuries of various degrees of severity. Even Fire Service personnel were attacked.
It is as if the local populace had simply lost its head –totally. Also, in the course of reporting, there came a suggestion that, via mobile telephones mainly, some sort of ‘networking was taking place, and that many additional people willing to engage in lawless behaviour were quickly on the scene, including at least one boy aged only eleven years. A fourteen year-old was detained and found to have a hammer of some sort taped to a leg. This he later claimed had been “for his own protection” –a claim hard to credit. ‘Why was he thus prepared?’ Was he expecting the trouble, one might well ask?
As mentioned, on the succeeding three nights, similar events flared up (literally) in other places. It was seemingly apocalyptic, numbing, frightening and just amazing. By this time Police forces everywhere were coming up to a state of readiness to apply considerable restraining pressure. Their heroic efforts, combined with some widespread rainy weather served to extinguish the contagion. It fizzled out, and has not since re-started. Actually there was a reflex from the more responsible and level-headed members of the various communities affected, inasmuch as gangs of people with gloves, and brooms and shovels quickly began a clean-up operation. This brought immediate relief and a reassuring whiff of sanity that has shown things are not yet totally out of control. The end had not yet come, after all.
Now, of course, commenting and pontificating, surmising, analysing and explaining, justifying and condemning are totally rife. Everyone wants to have his ‘say’. I myself have not commented one single word of the matter to anyone other than my wife. That is not because the matter was not on my mind. Spur-of-the-moment comment is seldom completely rational or even helpful. What I have done is to ponder quietly, and in the process asked myself if these events should really have come as such a surprise as they did. I am beginning to string some ideas together, and feel just about ready to offer my thoughts for consideration, in case they might prove helpful, useful, and perhaps even revelatory.
I hope to flesh-out these ideas to some degree below.
Should we have been so surprised at events following the firearms incident in Tottenham?
First answer: Yes we should have been surprised that such a development seemed initially to have been linked with the Shooting incident. In retrospect I seriously doubt there was actually any genuine connection. What I do allow is that a number of individuals or a co-ordinated group probably seized upon that incident for use as an ‘excuse’ for something they wanted to do anyway. Others just copied.
What evidence is there that “people” are ready and prepared to behave in such lawless ways? Have you tried driving at or under 70 mph. in the nearside lane of any motorway? What proportion of drivers, would you say, would pass you travelling at up to 25 mph. faster than you? Over 50% I think. Now is travelling at such speed legal? No it is not. In fact it is a criminal offence to do so. 50% criminal! Is there driving uninsured (including non-MOT’d.) or unlicenced? Oh yes.
What urban or semi-rural neighbourhoods are free from incidents of anti-social behaviour? If called, would the police respond to try and correct it? Hopefully so. Is there graffiti? Litter? Wilful damage? Fly-tipping? Drunkenness in public? All these are illegal, and even ‘criminal’. Are there assaults? Muggings? Burglaries? Drug-dealing? Shoplifting? Theft? Benefit fraud? Unwarranted absence from work (‘throwing a sickie’)? Are there ‘phone, credit card or ATM scams? computer fraud? unlawful down-loading of artistic creations? telephone/e-Mail hacking? insider dealing? breaches of H & S laws? Illegality of various kinds is widespread and very common at all income or ‘class’ levels. Isn’t it glaringly obvious that society is riddled with individuals for whom the degree of their lawbreaking is limited only by their nerve, estimation of their own ‘cleverness’ or chances of getting away with it?
Who are the main offenders?
It isn’t proper to assume ‘the poor’ are necessarily criminally-minded, even if dire need is a motivation for self-preservation at almost any cost. Is the economic down-turn responsible for bad feelings among those worst affected? Of course! But aren’t we all in this together? It isn’t deliberately selective. Are the worst offenders “the educationally backward”? Are the worst offenders members of “ethnic groups” not native to these islands? Are “the unemployed” inevitably disposed to break the law? No.No.No. Criminality is spread more widely than stereotyped groupings. How a person behaves relates almost entirely to character and fundamental morality, or lack thereof.
What can we do about it? Can we cure it? Is there a cure or remedy?
The good news is: Yes it can be cured. The bad news is that it is very hard to do, and it will take a very long time. It will also be very expensive, but simply throwing money at this problem will not make it go away. The cost lies in summoning the will, creating the vision, caring –even loving, giving time, total public involvement, example, education, dedication, patience, long-suffering, determination and endurance. At the heart of the whole matter lies the need to reconstruct the traditional family unit with its intrinsic moral and social values and training. It’s a moral problem. We were a long while getting into this mess, and will be a long time getting out of it even supposing we do learn how. We have to.
Are there any ‘quick fixes’ available?
There are plenty on offer just now. The first is “Give more powers to the Police.” Presumably that means more arrests and prosecutions, since the Law itself is not particularly bad in principle, essence, scope nor fairness. Structural support for enforcement may be lacking, though. Are there enough prisons? enough Probation Officers? enough Parole Officers? What about creating a whole raft of new offences? Well, that has happened over the last few years but hasn’t helped at all. Besides, such steps also curtail the freedom and human rights of those who do not offend against the Law. Many glibly call for perpetrators of civil strife to be ‘fined’, ‘evicted’ , ‘have their State benefits curtailed / withdrawn,’ etc. etc. The proponents of such measures are asking that the only remaining props supporting the less affluent be taken away. Into what situation will the dispossessed then fall? They become virtual “Outlaws” and we know very well from the lessons of history what will be done by those who have nothing to lose –whatever they do. Are we therefore to create a new under-class of citizenry to stigmatise? to control? to deprive? What then of Civilisation? “Civil unrest” Continued
This is what happened to (our) civilisation: We threw it away.
We forgot what it was that had made us what we are (were). We began to behave in accordance with what we imagined the rest of the world was thinking. Only the rest of the world was not thinking the way we thought they were. They wanted to come here because of what we had been thinking, and wanted us to share it with them. We assumed they wouldn’t want it, so we ditched it!
Now, instead of continuing to think according to a single set of known precepts, we’re frantically striving to think in terms of many new sets of precepts, all of them foreign to us. No wonder we’re lost. No wonder those who came to join us are even more confused than we are! We let them down. “Now you’re here, what kind of country would you like this to be?” we said. A couple of generations ago the answer would have been: “Just as you always were.” Having left the matter unresolved, a new British-born adult generation has, frankly, little idea of how Britain was when our parents were young, yet having nowhere else to go. Instead of hosting the wider world under the mantle of our traditional precepts, we ask them to specify by what precepts we should live, move and have our being.
Heaven knows “the British” arrived at nationhood pretty much according to the Christian faith, but evolving through reconciliation, colonisation, occupation, immigration & rationalisation. And it worked well. Celts, Scots, Angles, Saxons, Norse, Romans, Normans all contributed uniquely, and it paid off. In fact it paid off so well that with the additional benefit of a lot of other historic factors: philosophical, scientific, industrial, military, naval etc. the British came to possess the world’s greatest ever Empire. This itself under relentless further historic pressures became transmuted into a Commonwealth of Nations -an amazing concept, and how successful that was! A nation not pulling together ethically as one, as did ours, could never have achieved anything remotely approaching that.
Whilst what I have just said is broadly the truth, it all sounds a bit simplistic, doesn’t it. We can’t write off known history that tells the tale of how this British culture was forged and consolidated –even if in some minor degrees the process was never absolutely finished: (viz: Irish). Neither was it a gentle unfolding like some fairy-tale. Brutal and harsh -even tyrannical- episodes or stages preceded the triumph. Although admittedly a great deal of war and rebellion was involved, the eventual outcome –the historic concept of the “Pax Britannica”- was a remarkable and enviable fact. Leaving aside the French war(s) and that for a long period England and France had actually been one kingdom, it is interesting that most recent wars have arisen in and/or because of some European or Asian nations which were never under British rule. Please don’t see my views as ‘Jingoistic’: every dog has his day.
Technological progress –electronics, transportation and education- has ‘shrunk’ this planet to a size that makes the whole concept of Empire anachronistic, to be left behind as an historical curiosity. ‘Commonwealth’ less so perhaps but, in this post-colonial age, largely a sentimental ‘Co-op’ that was overtaken by things like the rise of the USA, European Union, SEATO, NATO, Arab Union, certain links between African states etc. and ,above all, the United Nations.
So what are we to think? Do I blame all our (especially recent) troubles upon “immigration”? NO!
No I most certainly do not. What I blame is, I think, clearly set out in the first two paragraphs on this page. The actual process did not take place in an instant. It was a process moved forward by a number of different factors –some beyond our own national control but nonetheless connived at by the kind of position that we as a nation (or at least those who were given responsibility to lead our nation) decided to take up. For whatever reason, and bit by bit, we let our golden treasure slip away.
What are the factors involved?
What I say next is very much a personal view, but is supported by a large, probably elder, segment of the British people. Some of the most crucial parts of my explanation of our failings which I present on Page 5 below will be contested, I expect also, by another quite large, but perhaps younger, element among British people. All the same, I honestly believe what I say to be true, it having been proven so time after time, in ways which I understand, which I respect and which I know can be relied upon.
I gave my view of how our nation came into being by influences (often external and forced upon us) and internal adjustment to those influences. Things cannot believably need to be different in modern times. I saw on t.v. today film taken at the memorial service / funeral for those three young men who were mown down by a car driver involved in the recent riots. They were Asians, and ostensibly of the Muslim faith. The crowds in attendance at the service –many thousands- having assembled from scattered parts of Britain (or at least England)- appeared in every aspect of dress, grooming and attitude like a crowd you might see any day in Bangladesh, Kabul or Baghdad. They were quiet, and peaceful and prayerful. Furthermore, they displayed banners or flags which stated, as people were also heard to say, “We are a united country.” Please God we be so. Reassuring. The point I wish to convey is that over recent decades, Britain’s population has changed, and changed massively. It is not good or bad: it is just a fact. As the population has changed, so to a noticeable extent has the infrastructure, architecture and décor of our environment. We are adapting to it and to a large extent already accepting it. “That’s how it is!” Clearly the trick is / will be to remain united and to remain British –modern British.
No doubt it took quite a while before the Vikings, with the reputation initially of violent, blood-thirsty and thieving raiders, could be accepted and integrated as immigrants and settlers. We know it was much the same with the Saxons. The Romans who were much more advanced, better organised and equipped –even perhaps “more civilised”- eventually had to be tolerated as ‘a permanent presence’ in British life. For their own reasons: social, climatic and political, they chose to leave. Apart, perhaps, from the “Arthur” of legend, hardly a single Roman stayed here after his mother country called him home. The Normans, however, also came and overpowered the British by force of arms, intellect and strategy, but we know they stayed, because I myself am descended from one of them. Nowadays, who cares who the Normans are, or where they are or what they are up to? In the truest sense, they are utterly integrated and indistinguishable among the British population, even though many of their family names still survive in everyday usage. That seems to me an example for today that must be fully internalised by the British, and hopefully sooner rather than later.
As it is, some old prejudices, or at least the echoes of them, linger on and have not yet ceased to shape, colour and restrict the kind of lifestyle and opportunities accessible to many persons among the newer arrivals in Britain. If some of them had known what to expect they might have decided not to come. Some didn’t know, but for their own reasons came anyway. Others knew what to expect, but were optimistic and trusting enough to believe that ‘in time it will all normalise itself.’ May they not be disappointed, I say. Happily huge strides in that direction have already been made. Still, as I said, it appears considerable numbers of such people struggle for acceptance here, and may even have been heavily represented among those offending by rioting and looting in numerous communities throughout Britain the other week. I am adamant: those things ought not to occur in a civilised society that is ostensibly governed and maintained by the rule of law. It is an old precept of British jurisprudence that “ignorance of the Law is no excuse (for breaking it).” Lawbreakers should and will be punished. That is the deterrent built into the Law, proper observance and enforcement of which are the only ways to ensure any society’s survival and success. Not that alone, but it is the only credible means of maintaining the freedom of persons subject to but also protected by those laws.
We have enough Law (some say ‘too much’). Proper observance and enforcement would achieve our free nation’s social objectives. I’ll mention again hysterical calls for “More powers to be given to the Police”. Remember; there is no “us” and “them” under the Law of a free society, and we would all be subject to those “increased powers” whatever they turned out to be. That is NOT our way forward. Remember: “Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Our police are only human and, if we were not prudent, even they could become our enemy and not our friend. Despite more than a thousand years as a nation, we suddenly lost confidence; lost our way; surrendered to fear. We feared to stand up for worthy principle; we feared to be what we had been proud (and highly successful) in being. WHY? WHY? WHY?
I don’t know all or even many of the reasons why we gave up our principles. I just know we did.
I know some of the things that have caused our failure as a society, and they don’t actually have anything to do with the comparatively recent world financial crisis, or the consequent economic downturn that simply must be addressed, whatever the short-term cost. Neither did these riots stem from austerity measures promulgated to tackle the crisis. All of us are subject to those measures, but not all of us have rioted in response: only a tiny proportion of us, even if actual numbers appear high. No single factor is to blame, but our decline results from an accumulation of choices over some years. We have inherited the kind of society we chose to become.
“Give the police greater powers”
“To enforce the Law.”
Is the Law good, then?
“Of course it is!”
Why so good?
(pause for thought).
“It’s based upon ‘justice’ and ‘equality’ and the ‘common good.”
Really? How so?
“People fought and died to establish British Law.”
On what basis?
“Well, on ‘goodness’ and ‘right’ and ‘freedom’ and all that.”
Whose idea was that? Where did it come from?
“It’s tradition; historical, you know?”
Wasn’t King John’s rule (1199-1216) ‘traditional’?
“But the Barons forced him to make concessions by signing the Magna Carta.”
And where did the Barons get these ideas?.
”Oh! I get it! You want to talk about God and all that stuff,”
Perhaps I do. Why not? The Barons’ ideas weren’t new at Runnymede in 1215 even though that was eight hundred years ago. Hadn’t anybody been striving to live by very similar principles even a thousand years before that? You remember! The principles that were taught by Christ to his disciples almost 2,000 years ago. And do you know whom He had urged people to obey before that? Moses! Yes, Moses, who had lived about 1,500 years before Jesus, and the Law he was called to announce and to be observed we all know as ‘The Ten Commandments’. Go back 400 years more and we find Abraham living according to holy law. Why stop there? What about Noah 1,000 years before him, who with seven close relatives was living by righteous laws, and saved when all others perished?
Finally, another one thousand years before that we’re back with old father Adam! ‘Nuff said!
Well! Who or what makes us think we are so untouchable and ‘clever’ that we can simply toss aside good, righteous law that has been guiding the human race for six thousand years: (i.e. since the very beginning) and do so without any serious consequences? Fools!. Once we decided, stage by ‘official’ stage, to “get God out of the equation” we were doomed. There was plenty of warning. We’ve had the events that are beginning to come to a head in our own day and age mapped out in fine detail many times more than once in scripture over centuries of time. Moreover, we’ve seen records of great and powerful nations fall into the same trap despite many, many warnings in graphic detail about what they might expect from choosing to go the way of the world. Verifiable history demonstrates with chilling EXACTNESS prophesied consequences of persistent opposition to God’s law visited upon those nations to their almost total destruction. I say “almost” because God’s purposes never fail, and His plan to (eventually) raise up a totally righteous and perfect nation through his chosen lineage requires that a remnant be allowed to survive to father them at the end. It takes so long because there is, and always has been, active opposition, which is growing stronger than ever right now. That voice is seductive; it is persuasive, and it sounds so rational and reasonable, yet once we hear it urging us not to look for nor believe in or listen to or serve our Father in Heaven, then we may know for an absolute certainty that it is attempting to lead us on to total destruction. No invading army caused these riots, but our own benighted people acting within this once-great society. As when the mighty Roman Empire fell, it was not on account of external enemies: but died through the rottenness inside itself. Because we have already travelled so far (and so rapidly too) along that downward slope of ‘political correctness’ (what a cynical misnomer that is!), we have denied almost two whole generations of our own people their God-given right to the blessing of sound education about what is good; what is bad; what is right; what is plain wrong; what is the way to success and happiness, and what is the way to failure and misery. No wonder they are going off their heads: we’ve left them with no reliable guidance.
We reap the harvest of our arrogant, perverse, blind, self-obsessed, worldly labours, for which many helpless innocents will now die. It is almost too late to put the brakes on. I say ‘almost’ because some of us will see the abyss ahead plainly and re-shape our lives, grab the lifebelt and try to save as many of our fellows as we can. Of the rest who just can’t be bothered, their end doesn’t bear thinking about